On Twitter my bio changes with how annoyed I am by other Twitter users. My current handle is one that implores people to consider a horse first and a zebra last when you first hear hooves beating behind you. I think the message is somehow lost on most people.
I am Indian and English. A Brummie girl and ardent Aston Villa supporter. I have never watched a Villa match from the corporate or Royal box, preferring the Holte End every time.
When I was very young my father put my brother, sister, mother and me onto the SS Statendam at Southampton en route to New York. When we were processed at Ellis Island, with all of us suffering from Chicken Pox my mother was informed that we would be put into immediate quarantine as there had been a smallpox outbreak at Birmingham University in the previous two weeks. As far as officialdom was concerned, we had smallpox. You only had to take one look at us.
Fortunately, my mother could prove that we had left Birmingham three weeks prior to our departure from Southampton. We had in fact done a farewell tour of the Cathedrals and monuments of the South of England in that time. Scintillating stuff for a toddler. At least the trade off was not being incarcerated under the Statue of Liberty. Ironically.
After starting my education in America and a brief stay in Germany of a few months, the family headed over to India. I have to say at this point that we did so via another cultural tour. I’m not clear really why this was the case but international travel in those days was something of a lottery on survival chances so its likely that my father was contemplating an early death for all of us. We obviously couldn’t go into the afterlife without seeing Stonehenge or the Acropolis.
So, on our way to India we visited Greece, Lebanon and Tehran. I can say with a high degree of certainty that I’m glad I did because the latter two countries are not on my list of places to go again. Things have changed.
Arriving in India holds two outstanding memories for me. The smell and the noise. Nothing prepares you for India apart from having been there before. Of course, things have changed dramatically since then. It no longer smells and the noise is worse.
India holds a very special place in my heart. It is the place I call home and I feel more Indian than anything else. All of my old friends are still friends. I visit them regularly and we simply pick up where we last left off. Social media has made this easier as I know all their news as it happens.
I was educated at a boarding school in the tea growing area of Tamil Nadu. Hill stations were built by the British so that they didn’t have to endure the fierce heat of the plains during the hot summer months. I was at one such hill station called Kodai Kanal. To get there involved a flight to Madras (now Chennai) and then a railway journey overnight up into the hills. After a night of killing cockroaches and screaming at the rats in the carriages we arrived at Kodai Road from where we spent four hours on a bus up to the school. This was no small undertaking, mitigated by the fact that we only had two school terms per year. We spent very long periods at school with no visits home at all.
I returned to England as a naive 20 year old. My ambition was to be a flying doctor (I have no idea why this was the case). Officialdom and circumstance meant that I couldn’t start medical school when I got back to the UK so instead I trained as a nurse.
I absolutely loved being a nurse and now looking back, I wonder why I left the NHS. Actually, I left because I went to Singapore with my husband and it was there we had our first baby. She is now a doctor, so not a baby any longer. Via Australia for another two years, the USA and another baby (now a Financial Whizz kid) I started my law degree in Southampton University.
I’m going to let you into a secret here. Many people say how hard it is to be a mature student. It really isn’t. In fact it’s easier for older people. For a start you aren’t permanently drunk or hungover. No one forces you into drinking games. You are not coerced into sports clubs and societies, you aren’t impoverished and starving. You have accommodation and transport. That and your own Wifi. My degree was one of the happiest periods of my life. During this time my very clever friend and I won the UK National Mooting Competition. He was the brains in that outfit and has gone onto some amazing work at the bar.
For my part, after barrister training I did criminal law (mainly defence) and then matrimonial law. During the latter years I qualified as a mediator and continue to do that in preference to anything else.
Updating this now in 2021, I have actually gone back to the NHS. I retrained as a vaccinator and am now doing a very small bit for our national effort to get everyone vaccinated against Covid-19. I advocate very strongly for vaccines, but then, I grew up in a country where smallpox was a debilitating and fatal illness. I have seen the ravage of viruses first hand and remain 100% in support of vaccination as the gold standard treatment for disease control. My stance has upset many people on social media but I remain resolute!!